Just a Page Away From Getting Personal


Would you do me a favor for a moment and turn to page 37? I’ll wait. . . .

It’s just what I feared, isn’t it? Here I am on this side of the page trying to carry on a serious journalistic career, and right behind my back are scores of personal ads by people intent on getting into each other’s pants! How’s a guy supposed to get any work done?

But wait, you say. Isn’t it a mite presumptuous to be attributing libidinous intentions to all these people, who might actually be sensitive, caring, compassionate types -- not to mention the fact that they generate ad revenue?

I guess you’re right. Why, just look at this actual ad found on the personals pages of the Recycler this past week: “Rock guitarist, sensitive, caring, compassionate, seeks beautiful, sexy supermodel type, 18-27.”


Maybe there should be a “Seeking Self” category for narcissists.

Here are a few of the modest descriptives people in our Dateline ads use to present themselves: stunning, alluring, gorgeous, classy, sexy, ebony beauty, Swedish Venus, 1 in a billion, Gentleman’s Quarterly man, prosperous, Prince Charming, ruggedly handsome, awesome. And that’s all from one ad!

Not really, but there is one guy who does seem to have all the bases covered, describing himself as a “Jeff Bridges, Bono, Sting, Peter Strauss look-alike.” Did we leave out Flipper?

I loved the personals they used to run in Orange County Metropolitan magazine, which plumbed unprecedented depths of shallow. It seemed everyone in there likened themselves to a movie or TV star and was seeking someone who likened themselves to another movie or TV star: Liz seeks Dick; Richard Kimble-look-alike in search of one-armed-man-type; Ed Asner-type seeks romance/marriage with Mary Tyler Moore-ish babe. Never! Sacrilege!


There’s a complex code to these ads, curious abbreviations to facilitate people trying to cram their heart, soul and buff stats into a 14-word ad. It was ages before I figured out that ISO stood for “In Search Of” instead of “ISOmetrics nut.” Then there’s all the no’s: no smokers (n/s), no sexually transmitted diseases (no STDs) and so on. My favorite ad was one that appeared in the LA Weekly a couple of years back that concluded, “n/s, no STDs, no HIV, no CSN&Y.;”

I suspect there’s another code in these ads as well: In these cautious times you have to read every word as if it’s part of a game called “Guess My Neurosis.” I haven’t broken the code yet, but I suspect it’s like the real estate ads, where every word masks another meaning--you know, the way “charming cottage” really means “decrepit shed”?

What do these ISO people really mean when they say they love long walks on the beach? There are so many ads claiming that, that if they all really did love long walks on the beach there’d be so many of them down there they’d be bumping into each other in the dark. They wouldn’t need to advertise.

It’s got to be weird, meeting a stranger through a publicly placed ad. Even if it is a Kevin Costner-type, even a Sherri North-type, how can you feel secure letting your guard down? There are nuts out there. In light of the Bobbitt escapade, even a simple typo such as that found in one woman’s Dateline ad last week takes on an ominous edge: “Bright, green eyes, really cute and cleaver. . .”


At least meeting someone through The Times carries a bit of panache, more than with some other publications with personals listings:

“That’s a great woman you’ve got there, Eric.”

“Why thanks Phil, I found her in the Recycler.”

Just doesn’t sound good, does it?


I have recently rejoined the ranks of the in-search-ofs, but that’s not why I’m checking out the personals. Rather, it just makes me feel a little bit less pathetic to know there’s all these other lonely folks out there. I can’t imagine ever calling on an ad because I prefer to believe love should happen through serendipity, chance, eye-contact and happenstance, and also because I don’t need to cough up $1.39 a minute to get rejected by some stunning Venus.

So, how do I profess to be an expert on the motives of these people?

Well, as Waylon Jennings said he once told a prospective beau of his daughter’s: “Son, I know what you’re thinking, and I know what you’re thinking with.”

I can’t presume to know what goes on in women’s heads, but having been something of a guy for all my life, I think I’ve got our squirrely thought processes down. We want a love that’s deeper than the world, one that will connect us with the universe, but we’re willing to lower our standards a bit.


There may seem to be an inherent contradiction in the following sentence:

“Well, if you aren’t the star-crossed soul-mate of my life, echoing in harmony for all eternity through the sad vastness of the universe, will you at least do the wild thing with me in my Plymouth Duster?”

Yet, to the guy brain, this makes perfect sense. Part of this may be because we confuse Plymouth Dusters with the universe, but mostly it is because we confuse women with God. Somehow we guys expect women to be that-which-we-are-not, to fill that huge longing we all feel and to make us complete, which is rather a lot to expect of someone. Fellini, by the way, made a very funny, sad and misunderstood movie on the subject called “City of Women.”

Short of programming a VCR, sex may be about the most confusing thing we do. As far as I’ve noticed, it can be the most profound form of communication you can manage between two people. But at the same time it’s inextricably tied to all that survival-of-the-species, monkey-drive stuff we have, not to mention a few thousand years of snickering repression.


And who is to say when it’s shallow and when it’s not? I’ve known couples for whom the marriage bed might as well have been a coffin, for how little love and understanding was exchanged there.

On the flip of that coin, someone who might have been me once had what ended up being a one-night stand a few years back that was practically life-saving, given the amount of compassion and caring shared between midnight and dawn.

With all the beer ads, soap operas, skin mags, cyber-sex CD-ROMs and super-model models we’re all supposed to aspire to, it’s a wonder any of us ever finds anything resembling true intimacy.

Do folks find it in the strange world transpiring on the other side of this page? I hope so, but I know it’s not an avenue for me.


For the two years that I’ve been popping up in this column mere millimeters away from these ads, I have yet to see one that reads: “Seeking cranky Jim Washburn type.”